A month of way-above averages, during which I read a lot, listened a lot, scoped SF shortlists a lot, and worked my ass off a lot, while enjoying those balmy 87 degree February days. This was not a normal month in any sense.
In book reviews, I tried to stick to a pattern of alternating vintage SF with last year’s releases.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, which somehow straddles the line between generic and innovative.
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, which anti-Heinleins its way through a bad-people-doing-things tale of intrigue.
On the vintage front:
Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem, a psychologically-introspective, astronomically-extrospective commentary on the hubris of humanity.
Gormenghast series (1946-1959) by Mervyn Peake, a splendid read, possibly SF’s first comedy of manners.
Radio Free Albemuth (1976, 1985) by Philip K. Dick, to continue 12-stepping through The Exegesis.
Missing Man (1975) by Katherine MacLean, a thoroughly entertaining and provocative telepathic procedural.
Amid all that book chatter, I tossed in my uninformed book award opinions of the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List, the 2015 BSFA award shortlist, and the 2015 Nebula and Kitschies award shortlists. I have committed to reading the BSFA list, and am tempted, very tempted to have a go at the Kitschies Golden Tentacle (newbie) list, even though I don’t have a prayer of a chance of finishing before the awards ceremony next week.
Another thing that has occurred to me since those posts: no Zen Cho Sorcerer to the Crown on any lists yet. Is that a sign of too-much-too-soon prepublication reviewer overenthusiasm or has she gone over mainstream’s head? Must find out.
Ten books. Damn, that’s a lot for me.
I’ll admit many of these are short books, and half of them were audiobooks. I think I’ve finally mastered Audible for finding cheap or free narrations, and now it’s rare that I don’t have something going on in my ears. I’ve gone from hating audiobooks to a compulsive dependence on them and while not many audiobooks are good for driving, most of them are great for cooking—which I do a lot. My mind tends to drift when driving and listening, but man, I’ve got the focus of a brain surgeon when I’m cooking and listening. And it helps to have a big knife in my hand when listening to pathetic drivel. “Fuck you, too, Bob,” CHOP CHOP CHOP.
Remember: I flipped off commercially-driven Valentine’s Day by making this my month of reading up on war and violence:
A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) by Marlon James
A hyperviolent analysis of the Cold War’s influence in Jamaica. A well-deserved 2015 Booker winner.
The Postman (1985) by David Brin
I pictured Kevin Costner the whole time, but I never had a thing for him in the first place, so that didn’t help.
Radio Free Albemuth (1985) by Philip K. Dick
so… when’s VALIS?
The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells
I’ve listened to Orson Welles’ dramatization, but never read the actual novel. This book is yet another reason why I really, really like H.G.
Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein
This book needs to buy the farm.
The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman
A great response to old Heiny.
Old Man’s War (2005) by John Scalzi
Scalzi’s intro to The Forever War says it all: “I don’t really get what I’m supposed to be doing here.” Well, he doesn’t actually say that. I read between the lines.
A Feast for Crows (2005) by George R.R. Martin
Kind of not as mind-numbingly dull as I thought it would be, but man it’s long.
The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts
Not as rich and deep as the introspective Bête, but it is smart and fun, a tinkering of many thoughts and styles.
The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy
It’s mainly an allegory for life and faith, with a reactionary tone that I find common and overindulged in post-apocalyptic literature.
Walk to the End of the World (1974) by Suzy McKee Charnas
I’m halfway through and, so far, it’s a quiet violence. Not what I expected. Ignore the shitty cover.
Red Light: First Light (2015, 2013 indie) by Linda Nagata
Still reading. The perfect choice to round out my Military SF cram session. Wow. Hard to put down.
I’d say I’m officially caught up enough on all things SF war and oppression canon. Moving on.
The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood- Okay, not moving on. A late addition to February’s list of violence. I don’t think I can adequately assess the value of Charnas’ Walk to the End of the World without reading this more popular successor. I’ve avoided this book for too long. I’m a grown up now. I can read things that are deemed “horrifying.” (See how I read The Road up there?)
The Hugo/Nebula ‘6 mix:
The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg- yesss more Silverberg
Blood Music (1985) by Greg Bear
The Heritage of Hasture (1975) by Marion Zimmer Bradley- between MZB and Bill Cosby… some my early influences have turned out to be major disappointments.
Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Doorways in the Sand (1975) by Roger Zelazny– moving this to April to coincide with serendipitous reading group plans!
The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert Sawyer
The rest of the BSFA 2015s:
Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
Glorious Angels by Justina Robson
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
And maybe, just maybe (probably) (some)… The 2015 Golden Tentacle Kitschies:
The Shore by Sarah Taylor
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett- Did you see his article in The Guardian?
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
The Night Clock by Paul Meloy
Making Wolf by Tade Thompson
That’s 15 books. I have some time off this month, but I’m being extra ambitious. 15 books is never gonna happen.
Monthly Book Tallies:
Books read: 10
Books blogged: 8
Books about Aliens: 6
Books about Robots/AI: 2
Books about Dystopia: 6
Books about Ghosts: 1
Books from the Military SF Canon: 5
Books about violence: 10
Books that were never meant to be published in this condition: 1
Books about war that refuse to confront the concept of death: 1
Books that dissect Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason through a variety of SF and literary pastiches and in a range of latitudinal settings but never directly state that the title is not just a Kant quote, but also a direct quote from War of the Worlds because you have to go stumble upon that yourself: 1